Obese people are drowning in their own fat, as it blocks airways in the lungs, research suggests.
A new study provides the first evidence that fatty tissues can accumulate in the airway walls of lungs, hindering efforts to breathe.
Australian researchers analysed lung samples from 52 people and found the amount of fat increased in line with body mass index.
The new study, published in the European Respiratory Journal, suggests that the fatty tissue alters the structure of people’s airways – and could be one reason behind the increased risk of asthma.
The researchers examined post-mortem samples of lung that had been donated for research and stored.
They studied samples from 52 people, including 15 who had no reported asthma, 21 who had asthma but died of other causes and 16 who died of asthma.
The scientists used dyes to carry out detailed analyses of almost 1,400 airways from the lung samples under the microscope.
The analysis revealed that the amount of fat present increases in line with increasing Body Mass Index. It means, adipose (fatty) tissue in the walls of airways, more present in people with a higher body mass index,
And they say the increase in fat appears to alter the normal structure of the airways and cause inflammation in the lungs – which could explain the increased risk of asthma in overweight or obese people.
Lung experts said it would be interesting to see if the effect could be reversed by weight loss. The Australian team are now looking for new ways to study and measure fatty tissue in the lungs.